Varosha is deserted and no one has been allowed to enter since a 1974 war that split the island.
Authorities in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on Tuesday announced a partial reopening of an abandoned city for a potential resettlement, drawing strong rebuke from Greek Cypriot and international leaders.
Varosha, a strange collection of abandoned hotels and residences, has been abandoned since a 1974 war that divided the island, a military zone that no one was allowed to enter.
Authorities in northern Cyprus have opened a small area for day visits in November 2020, and on Tuesday said part of it would be converted into civilian use with a mechanism in place so people could recover their belongings. their property.
“A new epic will begin in Maras that will benefit everyone,” said Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who was visiting northern Cyprus on Tuesday. Maras is the Turkish name for Varosha.
“We don’t have another 50 years to lose,” Erdogan told a crowd at a parade to mark the 47th anniversary of the invasion of his country that divided the Mediterranean island.
It refers to decades of failed efforts by the UN to reunite Cyprus.
“No progress can be made in negotiations without accepting that there are two peoples and two states with equal status,” he said.
Greek-Cypriot leaders fear a change in the area’s status shows a clear goal by Turkey to appropriate it. Greek-Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades described the move as “unacceptable”.
“It alters or is it an attempt to change the status quo,” he said.
Greece’s foreign minister said she condemned the move “in the strongest terms”.
“Risks that increase tensions”
The head of European Union foreign policy, Josep Borrell, has expressed his concern.
“[The] unilateral decision announced today by President Erdogan and [Northern Cyprus leader Ersin] Tatar risks raising tensions on the island and compromising the return to talks on a full settlement of the Cyprus problem, ”he said on Twitter.
UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said Turkey’s announcement was “contrary to UN Security Council resolutions” and risked “undermining the EU’s compliance process”. Cyprus”.
Deeply concerned about President Erdogan’s announcement on the partial reopening of Varosha. This is contrary to the resolutions of the UN Security Council and risks undermining the Cyprus Compliance process. We discuss this urgently with members of the Security Council. https://t.co/aWmzMKjXnA
– Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) July 20, 2021
UN resolutions call for the transfer of Varosha to the UN administration and permission for people to return to their homes.
Peace efforts have repeatedly stalled, and a new Turkish Cypriot leadership, backed by Turkey, says a peace agreement between two sovereign states is the only viable option.
The government of the Republic of Cyprus, backed by the European Union, rejects a two-state agreement for the island that would grant sovereign status to the state of Northern Cyprus that only Ankara recognizes.
Varosha has always been considered a negotiating pact for Ankara in any future peace agreement, and one of the areas widely planned to be returned to the Greek Cypriot administration in a settlement.
The Turkish Cypriot move made that assumption more uncertain.